Three years ago, former VP of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson decided to extend Carmelo Anthony. The two sides agreed to a five-year $125 million contract with a player option and a no trade clause. Fast forward to today and the man who gave him this contract isn't on the team anymore. Melo reportedly wants out of New York and has only given New York's front office two options.
The first option is the Cleveland Cavaliers, home of close friend LeBron James. The second option Carmelo would reportedly agree to is to go join Chris Paul, another one of his buddies, down in Houston. Melo has reportedly decided that Houston is his top choice. For Melo, joining either team would be a good deal as both have All-NBA caliber players. However, each organization typically decides on trades for the betterment of their franchise and not the player.
Although recent reports indicate that 4-time All-Star Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland and has listed the Knicks as one of his preferred destinations, all that means is that the Knicks lucked out. Sending Kyrie to New York would make Melo joining Cleveland a more likely prospect, and acquiring Irving in return would be a more than solid return on their trade. There are now reports surfacing that the Knicks could be looking for a trade involving the two. However, if Irving decided that he wanted to stay put, then the Knicks would still be in the same situation. There also aren't any guarantees; this is all just speculation until and unless something actually goes down.
Let's say Kyrie wanted to stay in Cleveland or gets traded somewhere else. In this case, it's a lose-lose for the Knicks. If they opt to try and make a deal with Cleveland, there isn't anything they can get that would be worth it in the long run. There is a reason why the Cavs have been quiet this offseason up until this point. They have little in the way of draft picks, as most have been traded throughout recent years to build a roster that has helped them get to three straight Finals. Other than their Big Three, they have little in the way of players that are worth Carmelo's talent.
Option number two is not much better. The Rockets recently gave away a bevy of assets that included Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and a 2018 top three protected first round pick, among other things. That once again leaves the Knicks to deal with a team that doesn't have many attractive pieces. The best Houston has been able to offer the Knicks so far is a deal involving Ryan Anderson. No disrespect to Anderson, but that would be one of the dumbest moves for the Knicks to make--and one which they wisely declined to make. In the long run, his contract is worth more than Melo's. Furthermore, Anderson has an injury plagued history and he is not a young asset the Knicks can use to help them rebuild.
Houston is also unlikely to deal away key players such as Eric Gordon or Trevor Ariza. Melo was an All-Star last season. However, he's not getting any younger, his play declined last season and his defensive abilities have always been a point of controversy. There is also the possibility that Melo might not even sign an extension past this season if things don't work out. If Melo declined to sign an extension, trading away all those assets for him could ultimately do more harm than good for Houston.
The Knicks and Rockets have reportedly tried to bring in other teams, but that hasn't proven to be fruitful. Teams such as the Blazers are only willing to play ball if they can land Melo--and Anthony has already ruled them out. No other teams have been mentioned in recent reports, which could only mean that teams don't have a vested interest in joining this dance.
This is the type of damage a no trade clause can do to a franchise. Rather than be allowed to directly deal with a team such as the Trail Blazers, who have much better assets than the Rockets can offer, the Knicks are in a sticky situation. However, if push comes to shove, the Knicks may be inclined to pull the trigger on a bad deal, rather than lose out and get nothing.
With Melo wanting out and is only willing to go to the Rockets or the Cavs, the Knicks don't have much control here. Their only options at this point are to be to buy him out, trade him to the Rockets or let him ride out the season with the team. This should be a lesson to the Knicks and any other team in the future. Unless it is a guy like LeBron James or Russell Westbrook and only if they say that they absolutely won't sign unless it's in there, never mention the dreaded no trade clause.